Ever hear the old saw (which happens to be true, by the way) that a trained gundog is the greatest conservation tool a hunter can have? Think about that. Without a dog, just imagine how many animals you may otherwise have lost in the field, all those precious, delicious and hard-won quail, pheasants, ducks, geese, chukars, huns, ruffed grouse, sharptails, prairie chickens, Burmese pythons, African rock pythons, boa constrictors, anacondas...
A couple weeks back I asked readers for suggestions on how to convince a significant other that you need a new pup. Incidentally, the photo that accompanies that blog is my little setter, Jenny, when she was eight weeks old. I can't say that I actually tried using any of your fine and varied suggestions, but obviously I did something right, or at least not catastrophically wrong, as here I am again, for better or worse, with a new pup.
Meet Insert Name Here (we'll get to that in a minute). He's a precocious, long-legged, raw-boned little cutie of an English setter from Berg Brothers Kennel in Dayton, Minnesota. In this picture he's giving the stink-eye to a prairie chicken wing, but when I picked him up from the airport Friday, he was alternately charming everyone at the cargo dock (when they were paying attention to him) and splitting their eardrums with howls of pure anguish (when they weren't).
It's Friday, which means it's time to announce the winner of the current Man's Best Friend caption contest. Almost 130 of you took your best shot at making some sort of humorous sense of this photograph of a boy, a dog and a furbearer. As usual there were some good ones, some groaners and some that were just, well, weird.
Considering the breed (a "versatile" continental breed) and the quarry, I was a little surprised we didn't see more references to NAVHDA hunt tests but be that as it may, here are a few standouts...
A few weeks ago, I was out doing a little training with my graying, soon-to-be nine-year-old chessie. We were working on long blinds (something she's never really excelled at). As she began to drift off the line I had sent her on, I gave her a sit whistle, which she ignored as if she hadn't heard it.
"That's not like her," I thought as I gave her another, louder whistle, which she promptly obeyed as she usually does. I knew she probably hadn't heard that first whistle, but at the time I chalked it up to the distance involved, the fact that we were working into a stiff, howling wind and a somewhat wimpy first whistle blast on my part.
But maybe she didn't hear me because, well, she's slowly going deaf? Many of us probably don't give much thought to our dogs' hearing, but considering how often their ears are subjected to close-range shotgun blasts, maybe we should. In a bit of serendipity, not long after I began wondering about my old dog's hearing loss, I received an e-mail from Phil Bourjaily alerting me to the existence of a product I must admit I never knew existed.
Don't ask... I just took the picture while wandering the aisles at the Pheasants Forever Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic last month. I have no idea what's going on inside the head of either the wire-haired pointing griffon (at least I think that's what he is) or the boy with the unusual hat.
But since it's time for another caption contest, maybe you can provide some insight.
As I stand in my driveway slowly sipping coffee, I hear a faint sound far above my head, a familiar trilling cry that on this warm spring morning is pure auditory sunshine. A ragged, undulating V of sandhill cranes winging north along an invisible trail seen only by them. If air currents could show ruts, how deep would they be from the eons of their passing?
I hear memory and time and forever itself distilled in that haunting call. The descriptive word for how I feel is "Zugunruhe", and simply put, it is an innate restlessness, an instinctive urge to move with the seasons.
We all possess it on some primordial level, but shackled by circumstance, most of us long ago turned a deaf ear to its call. But when I hear the sandhills floating overhead it always stirs something inside me, a migration of the state of mind if not the body, a transition from the brooding introspection of late winter to the hope and exuberance of spring.
Leads and check cords are probably the most basic, least expensive dog training tools we have. Consequently, they're also the most easily lost or misplaced dog training tool we have. In my own personal (and never-ending) dog training aid attrition contest, only bumpers can challenge leads and check cords as my most frequently lost item. And even though commercially-made leads and check cords aren't terribly expensive, one way to save a little money is to simply make your own. Not only is it cheaper than buying ready-made products, but making your own also gives you the flexibility to have many different lengths and diameters for different training situations.
So what do you need to make your own? Rope, a snap, a lighter, and the ability to tie a bowline knot. And that's about it. Moreover, you can find everything you need to make high-quality leads and check cords at your local hardware or farm supply store.
I was browsing YouTube recently when I came across a video from Berg Bros setters in Minnesota (you may remember Berg. Bros. from my blog post on tips for buying a started dog). The video shows a five-month-old Berg Bros setter pup absolutely steady to wing on a flushed bird. It was a pretty amazing video for a dog so young, so I called up Scott Berg to ask him about it, and as I do every time I talk to a knowledgeable dog trainer, managed to learn something in spite of myself.
"Well, that was an unusual situation," says Berg, "And I'd caution anyone not to push for this type of result so early, or to even try this with a pup that young, but I had worked this pup on whoa, both on the bench, and playing fetch. I'd mix in whoa while playing retrieve. I'd throw a ball, then gently restrain him while saying whoa. When he was steady for a bit, I'd release him. It was a fun game and the retrieve was his reward. You want to make it fun for the dog. Keeping it fun is very important, and letting them learn on their own with wild birds or strong flying liberated birds."
Which is which? I 'aint sayin, but I'm gonna bet against the collective wisdom and predict that none of you identify both breeds correctly. Yep, that's a challenge... -- Chad "I'm a Moron" Love, 2-29-12
Mouth, meet crow. Of 48 total entries, 13 of you managed to guess correctly that the two dogs pictured were the Deutscher Wachtelhund and the Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever. I am, however, sorely tempted to give the prize to reader "agdw" for his entry "dark brown dog, light brown dog" just because I like a smarta**. And to rub a little more salt in my wounded pride, not only did many of you get it right, but the very first guess was right on the money. No more clues for you people.
Every now and then, you happen to stumble across, in the least likely place, something so deeply poignant and personally relevant that you can't help but wonder if a bit of serendipity was involved in the discovery. Such was the case yesterday afternoon.
I was on the road for a story assignment, and as I always do when I'm traveling, I had my eyes peeled for thrift shops, junk parlors, antique malls and anywhere else I can peruse the cast-off, obsolete, and unwanted detritus of our always-new-and-improved single-serving society. Books (of the dead tree variety) are my primary targets. I like to say the three things I can't resist are old guns, old books and new puppies. And of the three, I can consistently afford only books, so when the thrift shop sign flashed by, I wheeled around and went in for a look around.